My Take

Hapless Paul Chan should step aside

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 6:02am

It's time for ministers to realise they should quit when they can no longer do their job properly and have become a more of a liability than an asset to the government they serve. It is, after all, what being accountable means under our ministerial system, or should have meant if successive post-handover administrations didn't make a mockery of the principle.

Having been in his job for a year, it's clear development chief Paul Chan Mo-po does not have the expertise, credibility or popular support to carry out myriad projects that are crucial to the future development of Hong Kong. But he still seems to have the support of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. He was shooed in as a last-minute substitute for his predecessor, Mak Chai-kwong, who has been found guilty of fraud over housing allowance claims he made in the 1980s as a civil servant. Leung and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor were defending Mak up to the minute Mak was placed under arrest.

Leung again appears to be ready to do it again. Perhaps he worries about leaving the post vacant if Chan quits. But it was Lam's previous job and she could at least supervise until a replacement is found. Or perhaps Leung thinks that at worst, Chan's conduct amounted to a conflict of interest rather than being anything criminal. Chan's family and relatives have been found to own a plot of land in Kwu Tung North that is earmarked for a major new town, so they may stand to gain substantial compensation.

But let us take the most charitable interpretation. Let's say it was all above board. Still, this is the second controversy he has been embroiled in, the first one involving another family company that owned subdivided flats. Leung's administration has enough problems on its hands; it doesn't need more rows.

Chan previously caused a furore when he claimed military sites were being looked at for the possibility of converting to housing use. He was oblivious that any such move would require the consent of the Central Military Commission. In May, he caused more heated debate when he tried to explain when the PLA may occupy a military pier at the new Central waterfront.

Here is a man who has no command of policy details or the big picture. Why is he hanging on?